|Tepuq Bulan harvesting tapioca using a hoe|
|Fried tapioca cake|
|Tepuq Bulan harvesting tapioca using a hoe|
|Fried tapioca cake|
|View along the way to the Arur Laab jungle.|
|Wriggling little creatures of hell.|
|Leech chilling on a leaf, waiting for the next unsuspecting victim.|
That was an unhelpful but very accurate description. I was given my own little plastic bag where I could fill it with any kind of leaf that I THOUGHT was a jungle vegetable. I knew my leaves were going to be evaluated later lest I picked some poisonous or inedible leaf. :X
|A field of renuyun. The only place I could confidently pick jungle veggies!|
After filling one basket (we had two) with renuyun and dure, we continued uphill where we saw the dam that was the source of water for Arur Dalan village.
There was a Pineapple Ceremony at 2pm later that afternoon in the Bario Asal longhouse and so the older people of the group (Tepuq Sina Do Ayu and Tepuq Do Ayo, the pros) began chopping up the banana trees like crazy while the younger ones (Sina Katherine and myself, the inexperienced kids) stood watching by the side without parangs (they didn’t trust me with a knife! >=[).
Family. A greeting commonly used for the elders; someone who loved me very much and only wanted the best for me; someone who fed me endless Nuba Layas. My first and favourite Kelabit word.
Before anything, let me first introduce the lady I was assigned to for 3 weeks – the very grandmother-ly Tepuq Do Ayu!
When I first knew my pairing, I was told that she’s a very shy and reserved person. Perhaps we were paired because I’m generally good with silences and minimal interactions. However, she surprised me with little things like simple conversations with her foreign neighbours – yeah there’s this English + Portuguese couple living in Bario yo – and also attempting English during meal times. 🙂
As I recall my first (Mon)day of following Tepuq to the paddy field, I’m visited by memories of how dead tired I felt from harvesting and how annoyed I was at myself for being so physically unfit. I’m not one to give up or show my weaknesses easily though, so I ‘gungho-ed’ my way through the day; while wanting to cry a little. I realised how comfortable life at home was.
(No worries, I was good by the next day. Just a slight work culture shock was all.)
On the left is our first ever picture together, taken during one of our breaks.
“Tepuq tau tak ambil gambar sendiri tu apa?”
“Kita panggil ni Selfie! Haha.”
“Tepuq, do you know what they call it when you take pictures of yourself?
“I don’t know.”
“We call it a selfie! Haha.”
Yes, I taught her what a selfie was. (Hey, it was Oxford’s Word of the Year 2013, okay.) She probably doesn’t remember this word anymore, but it was funny trying to get her to pronounce it!
|I truly enjoyed breakfast with everyone!|
I still remember what was served that day, because I remember eating very happily.
We had fish, rice cooked in fish stomach, midin (fern) and wild boar, with padi hitam (black paddy) nuba laya.
As always I would reassure Tepuq in between spoonfuls, “sangat sedap!” (very yummy!) because I eat really slow, heh. More on that in the next post.
After breakfast, Tepuq disappeared into her room and came out with my kaboq, which is a pretty huge deal! I was really surprised by her present, and I also felt extremely blessed because she told me she’d decorated the beads herself.
|Taken during my backyard adventure:
Kaboq is a traditional Kelabit necklace.
This picture doesn’t do the details on this Kaboq justice. Up close, you can see the little painted-on patterns of the beads.
I love this necklace very much- it fits me because it’s very attention-seeking. :p
|Xueh Wei Cathrine – your local leaf doodler!|
|Me painting Sina Supang’s nails. (Does anyone notice the pen in my hair?)|
|After Beauty Session: I love the Arur Dalan people. <3|
Well it sounds like I just described a pretty mundane day, and I guess it is if I’m going to compare it to my life back here in the city, but it was actually a pretty extraordinary day in Bario by comparison. My point is, although nothing totally out of this world happened, it was still a very nice day of good vibin’ around. It was in Bario where I learnt, like a parent teaching their infant new words, how to really appreciate the little things again.
I miss my favourite simplicity, yes I do.
# Xueh Wei Cathrine #
Nuba Laya [noo-ba la-ya]
Food. A main course made of rice wrapped in a leaf called Daun Isip (which is the malay word for leaf, I know.) and then steamed to look very much similar to the Chinese traditional rice dumpling; a staple during my lunches with Tepuq, and something I can never finish alone.
“Makan. Habiskan.” (Eat it. Finish it.) Tepuq would always say to me in her sing-song voice. But Tepuq! I would always manja, I don’t eat a lot 🙁 I really don’t.
|My favourite set of dishes: cherry tomatoes + catfish,
with my legs soaking in the paddy field.
Here’s a not-so secret: I’m always the last one to finish my food during lunch. Not only that, I also eat very slowly because I tend to get full easily – and Tepuq notices too! Eventually after many days of her observation (and me convincing that her food is really good! + it’s just me!), she came to accept that I’m a small eater and lets me give half of my nuba laya to Tok. Yay! I really appreciate little gestures like that, because God knows how seriously people in Bario take their food.
This happened on a slightly gloomy Tuesday with Tepuq.
I’m not sure why I was feeling both sad and stressed out that morning. Heck, finally being able to visit Tepuq’s sawah near Bario Asal for the first time was supposed to be an exciting adventure for me, but I couldn’t help it and secretly whined about the heat. I forgot to bring my gloves as well; another downer.
|The beauty though.|
Luckily for me, Tepuq was ever patient and loving. She wasn’t fazed by my slight moodiness, and served breakfast by the paddy field as usual. That day, she was more initiative in asking me questions, and practicing pronounciations with me. It always makes me super glad to see an eagerness in learning language – something that keeps me going.
“What is XXX in English?” I especially love it when she asks me things in English itself!
|I taught her the word “picnic”.|
My mood lightened up soon enough (before noon). Thank goodness.
We ended work later than usual that day as there was more to do, and I’d forgotten my phone so I couldn’t keep track of time anyway. Being so used to the fast-paced life here in the city, I relished in the luxury of a timeless atmosphere during my stay in Bario (after taking some time to get used to it); perhaps that is why I love the place so much.
I enjoy Tepuq and Tok’s company, the way they’d always bicker (lovingly) about paddy things and how Tok would just give me his best smile like he was amused by Tepuq’s words. Maybe he was, I’m not sure, I still don’t speak fluent Kelabit, haha.
A couple that took me as their own grandchild, they named me Cathrine – not exactly the most Kelabit name (in fact, it’s Christian) but I love it. They had given me their daughter’s name.
Interesting fact: Names for new family members are to be chosen from exisitng names in the family. I’m honoured to be part of this Kelabit culture. 🙂
# Xueh Wei Cathrine #
|Curry puffs and tea for brunch.|
|Tama Ricky in the jungle on the way to the hydro dam.|
|A bowl of renuyun soup|
|Ubud – wild banana shoots, if I remember correctly.|
|Another type of ubud – pineapple shoots. Once again, if I am not mistaken. These were bought from the shops.|
|Cooked pineapple shoots|
|Tengayan porridge, to be eaten as a dish.|
|A typical lunch in Sina’s house.|
|Tama calls this the Bario asparagus.|
|Smoking wild boar. *sizzle* <3|
|Labo baka – smoked wild boar <3|
|A less westernized way of eating.
Nuba laya (rice packed in daun isip) instead of rice on plates.
For instance, one day, Sina Mayda decided to make senape, (glutinous rice packed in daun isip) in the afternoon. On the way home from the paddy field, (read more about the paddy field here), she stopped to cut some daun isip.
|Cooking the rice|
This event fascinated me so much because this is just not how things work in the place I live, Petaling Jaya (PJ)! Let’s say one day I decide to fry some tapioca chips in PJ, I can’t go to my (non-existent) farm in PJ on the way back from work, harvest some tapioca, walk home, slice the tapioca and fry it! Instead, I would have to get my supply of tapioca from the market. This reminds me of what Uncle Julian (Tepuq Sina Rang, our homestay host’s son) once said before he went hunting:
“I am going shopping! The jungle is a shopping centre, like One Utama or Mid Valley. In One Utama you take the chicken and put in the trolley right? In the jungle I take my senapang, hunt for wild boar and put in my 4WD.”
I can’t recall what he said word-for-word, but wow, what a metaphor!
What is your preferred way to ‘shop’ for lunch? 😉